A yoga strap can be an indispensable aid to practitioners who need help with various aspects of their yoga practice, such as:
- Maintaining proper body alignment
- Increasing range of motion
- Performing advanced poses
- Improving upper body strength
Whether you are a beginner just starting your yogic journey or an experienced yogi seeking the aid of an assistive prop, a yoga strap can make all the difference in the world. Keep reading to learn the 5 biggest benefits you can expect to receive from using a yoga strap and how they can transform the way you practice this ancient art.
What Is a Yoga Strap?
A yoga strap is nothing more than a narrow strip of durable, stretch-resistant material that can be grasped by the hands and used to align body parts into position and hold them there.
Yoga straps typically have these characteristics:
- Yoga straps are approximately six to ten feet in length
- They are usually woven from materials like cotton or nylon
- A common feature in yoga straps is a D-ring or buckle at one end to allow a loop to be formed
For many practitioners, yoga straps are more than just props, they are indispensable aids; without them, many people would not be able to execute certain poses or position their bodies properly.
How Long Have Yoga Straps Been Around?
The popular yoga instructor and well-known author BKS Iyengar is considered to be the driving force behind the use of yoga straps in modern yoga practice. During the 1960s, he touted the benefits of utilizing these simple props to achieve proper body positioning, hold challenging positions, and stretch certain muscle groups. Today, they are a common sight in yoga studios around the globe.
But the idea of using an accessory to facilitate certain aspects of practicing yoga is nothing new. There is strong evidence that the concept of yoga straps goes back thousands of years:
- Ancient texts refer to a strip of cloth known as a yogapatta and describe its use as an essential tool for guiding limbs into positions of “rigidity”
- Centuries-old sculptures and statues depict strap-like implements wrapped around the legs and limbs of yogis in various poses
- Indian paintings from the early 16th century portray vivid scenes of practitioners in yoga poses with yoga straps around their limbs
While BKS Iyengar rightfully deserves credit for encouraging modern yoga practitioners to embrace the use of yoga straps, the historical record shows that the idea of using woven strips may be nearly as old as the ancient art of yoga itself.
What Can I Use If I Don’t Have an Official “Yoga Strap?”
While commercially available yoga straps can be purchased in a variety of colors, styles, and lengths, there are several that can fill in quite capably if you happen to leave your yoga strap behind or simply do not have one.
Here are a few ideas:
- Any rope or cord (especially a thick one) can be used as a yoga strap
- Your towel or blanket can work as a great substitute
- A belt can work in a pinch but length may be an issue
- Even a long scarf or a necktie will suffice in most instances
- You can even repurpose the strap from other yoga gear, such as a mat or bag
It is worth noting that even BKS Iyengar, who is widely credited with popularizing the use of yoga straps and “inventing” this prop, professed to taking a popular luggage strap he had seen being used while traveling in France during the 1960s and repurposing it to immobilize his legs during yoga activities. The rest, as they say, is history.
5 Benefits of Using a Yoga Strap
A yoga strap can be a practitioner’s best friend, ready to provide valuable assistance when warming up before a session and lend a helping hand when trying to get into those difficult positions. Here are 5 benefits of using a yoga strap:
1. Maintain Proper Body Alignment
One of the key benefits of using a yoga strap is maintaining proper body alignment when executing poses. Every posture, no matter how simple or complex, must be performed with limbs and body parts properly positioned to reap the desired benefits.
Using a yoga strap can help you:
- Keep those elbows in
- Maintain a straight back
- Straighten out your legs
- Level your shoulders
- Keep those toes pointed
Best of all, you are in complete control of how much assistance a yoga strap provides so that you can get the most out of every session while minimizing the risk of injury.
2. Increase Your Range of Motion
Using a yoga strap can also help increase your range of motion beyond your normal capabilities. With the aid of this prop, you may find that you can bend your back further, twist your body more, and stretch your limbs out straighter.
By controlling the length of the strap (i.e., gripping it lower or higher, or adjusting its overall length), you can scale the amount of assistance that the strap is providing and gradually reduce your reliance on this prop.
3. Improve Your Stretching
One of the most immediate and impactful benefits of using a yoga strap is improving your stretching.
By anchoring one end of the strap on a particular body part and then using the arms to apply force (typically by pulling on the other end), a yoga strap can work as a gentle, yet effective pulley system.
It can stretch major muscle groups such as the:
- Hamstrings and calf muscles
- Back muscles and core
- Shoulder and neck muscles
Whether lying down on your back, sitting upright, or even standing up, a yoga strap can be a vital tool for stretching muscles and body parts that might be difficult to target otherwise.
4. Access More Advanced Poses
In addition to helping you warm up properly, align your body correctly, and extend your range of motion, using a yoga strap can empower you to elevate your yoga game.
A yoga strap can effectively lengthen the reach of your arms and alleviate strain on your muscles allowing you to perform more advanced yoga poses than you would be able to on your own without the aid of props.
Furthermore, with continued use of a yoga strap, you should experience improved flexibility and increased agility, and gradually, your dependence on this prop may decrease as your yoga skills improve.
5. Increase Upper Body Strength
Another benefit of using a yoga strap is increased upper body strength, most notably in the arms, by virtue of holding and pulling the straps.
The amount of resistance that is provided by anchoring one end of a yoga strap around your feet or another body part, and maintaining a certain amount of pressure for extended periods is considerable and can lead to improved muscle tone in the arms.
Now you know why using a yoga strap is so beneficial.
For many practitioners, a yoga strap is more than just an assistive prop; it is a game-changing tool that can take your yoga practice to the next level.